Knowing someone really well has advantages. That’s been the experience of twins Angela and Mark Soghomonian. The two are both juniors, both biochemistry majors and both student leaders for the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State. 

“Working together has always been fun,” Mark said, “and working with each other has also been very productive versus working with someone else that you’re not sure how they cooperate with…”

“… because we know each other so much,” Angela said, completing Mark’s sentence. “We know our weaknesses, we know our strengths. So when we’re doing something, like say when we take a lab together, we just automatically know who’s going to do what because we know each other so well. We know who does this task better. Should I take notes? Should you do the reaction? And it just worked that way all along.”

Now their older sister Olivia, a senior majoring in math and chemistry, is getting involved with the Richter Center as well.

The Soghomonians are part of a long-standing culture of service at Fresno State. Thanks to efforts by more than 12,690 students, faculty and staff, the University once again provided more than a million hours of service during the 2020-21 academic year. This is the 12th year in a row that Fresno State has provided more than 1 million hours of service.

“Fresno State is a clear national leader in aligning our teaching, research and professional activities to meet the needs of our region and world,” said President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “These 1 million hours of service during a global pandemic are a shining testament to our commitment to bettering our world. Universities across the U.S. are looking at our Richter Center as the gold standard for how talented and dedicated faculty and students elevate the quality of life of a region. I’m so proud of our faculty and students who invest fully of themselves in a heartfelt commitment to our communities.”

Data collected for the annual Service Impact on the Community Report by the Richter Center documents a total of 1.23 million hours of service. The total economic impact of that service is estimated to be $41.3 million, based on calculations from the Independent Sector, a national nonpartisan network of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations and professionals. 

The services provided range from short-term activities like blood drives with the Central California Blood Center and Kids Day benefiting Valley Children’s Healthcare to an average of 156 service-learning courses and long-term teaching internships with local school districts.

Angela and Mark both went to University High School, located on the Fresno State campus, which gave them exposure to Fresno State before they became college students here.

“When we both joined Fresno State as freshmen, we really wanted to get involved in community service,” Angela said. “We had some experience in high school with the food bank, but we really wanted to try something new and develop a long-term relationship with an agency.”

With that goal in mind, they joined the Richter Center’s Service Leadership Academy, which is only open to new students. Ever since, they’ve been helping tutor Fresno-area students, helping them with classes, even through the pandemic. 

“Volunteering together has really been fun,” Mark said. “It’s interesting to see how we work together with other people and how we can all come together to complete a task or finish what we are working on.” 

And their experiences with the Richter Center have helped them build their confidence.

“We’ve had the opportunity to organize conferences, present our experiences,” Angela said, “and it’s made me more confident in what I do and it’s allowed me to reflect back on what I do as well.”

The Soghomonians encourage others to give back to the community with their talents.

“If you love volunteering and if you have a passion for helping others, definitely join [the Richter Center] because it will encourage you to share your experiences,” Angela said. “It will encourage you to be a leader … and you’ll be able to attend conferences and share your ideas with other students.”